He was resting on the side of the road. His left arm lay lifeless on her bony shoulder. With his right hand he brought his gourd to his lips relishing in the heavenly juice that was slowly making his way through his palate. Each drop of the liquid a pearl, ’the’ pearl amongst all others, bursting delightfully into one thousand more savours in his throat. His legs were stretched in front of him, one foot on top of the other. His trousers’ pockets were bursting with things. All sort of things.
He face was tanned and the lines that greeted his eyes seemed to have been born out of the charcoal pen of a Chinese calligrapher.
She sat next to him. Erect. She looked like a cat. Her skinny body so tensed, she seemed plugged in an imaginary socket, her ears raised high, her legs ready to bounce and bite at a flicker’s notice, at the smallest noise. She wore a light flowery summer dress and a shawl covered her delicate burnt shoulders. Every inch of her translucent face was alert. She was wearing beige leather sandals. Jesus’ type of sandals. At least that is what the saleswoman told her in the shop, that those were the sandals Jesus wore. She had no idea what type of footwear Jesus wore (or did not wear). On the many crosses she had seen, he was always barefoot. She did remember a Monthy Python scene where the sandals had been depicted, but she did not remember what they looked like.
His arm was getting heavy on her shoulder but she dared not move for fear of disturbing him. She could not see his face but she could feel he was smiling and she loved his smile. She would trek across the Himalayas and walk on water just to be close enough to see and feel it. You can feel when people are smiling, you don’t need to see them. On the phone too, you can hear when people are smiling.
His smile was very special. It was one of those magical moments in anyone’s life. The minute he would smile, one would feel enveloped in a world made of beauty and bounty. It was an all-encompassing smile, one that would invite you in and instantly make you feel protected, wanted, a smile that could make you forget there were bad things out there.
He changed the position of his feet and put the gourd back in one of the many pockets.
He was smiling. He was looking at the poster across the street, trying to make out what it said. The sun was blinding him so he used his hand to protect his eyes and read: “Due to closure, Flamenco classes at 50% less”. Next to it was the remains of a picture showing what used to be a couple facing each other doing some dance move. The woman’s face had been removed, so had her legs, only her bust and arms remained, both hands holding red castanets; her partner was still intact, apart from the one missing shoe. He was staring the faceless woman straight into … well, nothing-but-the-wall, but, with so much passion that the man felt some sadness at not being able to see the face that had been removed. The dancers must have been excellent, he thought. He was imagining the classes that used to be given in the school behind the sign, the music permeating everything and everyone, the little girls, rushing for their classes, late but filled with dreams of Hispanic grandeurs; the little boys, less numerous and a little ashamed, praying they would not be seen by classmates; the dance teacher, with her strange and foreign accent, smelling foreign, eating foreign and always a little nostalgic. Maybe she had been the one on the poster whose head was now missing. Where was she today? Probably gone. Back to her country. Or to another.
Slowly he removed his arm from over her frail shoulder, careful not to displace her veil. His feelings for her were growing stronger with every passing minute. He was ready to do everything and even the unthinkable to protect her from harm. He loved her so he was ready to sacrifice all he had, himself included, just to make sure nothing would happen to her ever. He wondered if she too had taken dance classes as a child. She must have, she seemed to have the perfect physique for it. He knew nothing about her childhood. She knew nothing of his. It was better that way. They would have enough time to discover each other in the new country, in the new home. He felt so strangely calm and serene when he thought about their future together.
Lost in his dreams, he almost missed the signal. The bird tweet. She had heard it, of course, how could she not. She took his hand. The sun had set. They got up and started to run.
Together they ran along what remained of the bullet ridden city walls. They ran faster than they had ever run in their entire life, each feeding in the strength and love of the other through their entangled fingers. As they ran, she turned her head to watch him smile at her. She felt so filled with love and happiness that she managed to run even faster. The bullets were flying all around them, making whishing sounds as they passed them by and exploding on the potholed streets and dilapidated buildings.
They passed the sign advertising the flamenco classes and before they knew it, they had reached their destination.
A month later she opened a dance school in their new location. She started teaching flamenco.
25/06/14 – alexsdavid